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Dec 6, 2017

MotoAmerica: Yoshimura Suzuki's Toni Elias, Roger Hayden Quickest On First Day Of Testing At Thunderhill

Roger Hayden (95) celebrating Wheelie Wednesday and testing a new, smaller fuel tank on his Yoshimura Suzuki. Photo by David Swarts, copyright Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.

By David Swarts

Yoshimura Suzuki’s Toni Elias and Roger Hayden posted identical unofficial lap times of 1:47.0 to claim bragging rights Wednesday, the first day of a three-day MotoAmerica and Dunlop test, at Thunderhill Raceway Park, in Willows, California. Monster Energy/Yamalube Yamaha riders Cameron Beaubier and Garrett Gerloff, meanwhile, weren’t far off the pace set by their rivals with lap times of 1:47.6 and 1:47.8, respectively.

Action got off to a late start when two-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Beaubier led the way onto the course at 10:49 a.m. local time, when the ambient temperature was just 46 degrees F. Bright sunshine brought both the ambient and track temperatures up to acceptable levels quickly and the riders said the track was clean and in good condition, but gusting winds forced the riders to leave a little bit in reserve, especially over some of Thunderhill’s cresting turns.

Yoshimura Suzuki brought a long list of items to test including new suspension components, revised chassis parts, a smaller fuel tank, different seat units, and upgraded engines, but Elias and Hayden said they made no huge discoveries among the few items they got to try Wednesday.

“No big improvements from what I had at the last race,” Elias, the defending MotoAmerica Superbike Champion, told “We will try more tomorrow, but I think when we improve more will be in January when we get everything together, when we get some requests [filled] and some more new material. Today, it was been to reset, to restart the feeling. It has been three months without these bikes, and we need to adapt. We did this. In the afternoon I tried these little new tests, but nothing is better than what I had before.”

“I tried the new tank and some different seats, as well. Not a ton of stuff,” said Hayden. “I’ve been off the bike for a while and it was really windy. I wanted to make sure I was up to speed before we tested too much. All in all, it was a really positive day for me because I was pretty quick, pretty early and consistently quick, so I felt really strong on the bike today. I would have liked to have got more stuff done, but it’s a difficult track in the winter. It can be cold in the morning and cold in the afternoon, and then the sun comes in. You only have a short window to get some solid work in, but the stuff that we tried today we found some positives and we found some negatives. Overall for me, it was a pretty good day.”

The Monster Energy/Yamalube Yamaha riders had a similar list of items to test, but first on the agenda for Beaubier was evaluating his surgically repaired right shoulder and new teammate Gerloff needed to continue climbing the learning curve on how to ride a Superbike.

“My shoulder did pretty good,” said Beaubier, who last rode his Superbike in August, before he suffered a dislocated right shoulder that required season-ending surgery. “We didn’t do a whole lot of laps. I think my longest stint was like seven laps or something like that. I definitely have some things to work on shoulder-wise and just getting back in riding shape, but it was a really good first day back.

“I was mostly knocking off rust, but we tried a couple of things. We tried a different fuel tank. We tried a different setup, something similar to what [fill-in rider Josh] Herrin used at the last couple of races he did. We found pluses and minuses to pretty much everything, so it was good.”

“I love the Superbike,” said Gerloff, “but she gets a little scary sometimes, a little out of shape. So the biggest thing I’ve been working on is getting the setup where I like it, where I can keep the bike kind of docile and going forward. The biggest thing I struggle with is exiting [corners] and keeping the rear tire underneath me.

“There’s a lot of style changes I’ve been having to make, and today was a good step for me. But it’s a lot different than I thought it would be. I thought it would be more straightforward. The bike feels the same as a 600, ergonomics-wise and everything. But this bike is a lot faster and has a lot more power, so I have to ride it differently. I knew that going into this, but it’s a lot more different than I thought it would be. But I feel good. I feel like I’m getting up to speed and figuring it out.”

The sole Supersport rider at the test Wednesday, M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Valentin Debise, said he spent his time trying new suspension components, a new clutch, and an engine built to the new, more restrictive 2018 technical rules.

“It’s always good to test. It’s December and we are already testing for next year,” said Debise, who did a best lap time of 1:50.6 on his first day ever riding at Thunderhill. “We have a couple of forks to try and other things we were thinking about for a long time but during the race weekend we never have enough time to do what we want. We try to understand everything we do, so we go step by step, slowly. We just stayed on the same tire, a hard tire, to compare all our stuff. Now it’s about understanding what we do and deciding which direction to take. We’re not trying to do a lap time right now.”

Testing will continue on Thursday and Friday, when tire testing for Dunlop will take priority. 

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